August 22, 2007

#01-010: Englishes? British vs American Vocabulary

split image of British and American flags

Note: The great Irish writer George Bernard Shaw wrote, "England and America are two countries separated by a common language." What do you think he meant by that?

Get Ready: Which do you find easier to understand, spoken English or written English? Why do you think this is?

In Lesson #01-008 we looked at the dialect used by the British-born American poet Edgar Guest, who moved to America as a boy and "developed an ear" for dialects. This is not surprising, since young Eddie must have found himself moving back and forth between (at least!) two dialects of English: British and American.

English learners today must learn not just English, but EnglishES. You might choose between British English and American English. But this isn't the end of the problem. Although there is an "SAE" (Standard American English) and an "SBE" (Standard British English), most English speakers--I mean natives of the U.K., the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and other "English-speaking countries"-- don't really speak "Standard Anything English" day-to-day.

(Note: Beware of false distinctions! Some books will say things like "Taxi is British, and cab is American," when in fact both words are used in both countries!)

If you have learned English as a second language, you probably have noticed that your foreign friends, or people in movies, speak differently from what you read in a textbook. That's not because they're using words from later chapters! It's because, as with most languages, spoken and written English are quite different.

Native speakers of English: remember your old high school textbooks? Do you really speak like that? Of course not. You fill your speech with slang, colloquialisms, swear words, informal pronunciation and constructions, and so on.

Sometimes it seems like the language learner doesn't have a chance!


Read LOTS more differences between British and American English:

Practice: Match these common British words to the American equivalents below.

  1. a biscuit
  2. a car park
  3. a chemist's shop
  4. chips
  5. a dustbin
  6. a flat
  7. a lift
  8. a lorry
  9. maths
  10. a nappy
  11. petrol
  12. a queue
  13. a rubber
  14. a tin
  15. a torch

  1. a can
  2. gas, gasoline
  3. an elevator
  4. a truck
  5. a parking lot
  6. math
  7. a diaper
  8. a flashlight
  9. a cookie
  10. fries, French fries
  11. an apartment
  12. a line
  13. a garbage can, trash can
  14. a (pencil) eraser
  15. a drugstore, pharmacy

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for August 22, 2007

This lesson received 111 visits on my old site between December, 2011, and June, 2021.

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. i; 2. e; 3. o; 4. j; 5. m; 6. k; 7. c; 8. d; 9. f; 10. g; 11. b; 12. l; 13. n; 14. a; 15. h